Contest #173 shortlist ⭐️

37 comments

Contemporary Creative Nonfiction Desi

Every time I visit you, which is roughly once a year, I notice, the sharp edges of the glass, cemented on top of the high compound wall have become fewer and grown smoother.

The iron gate, on the threshold of which we grandchildren sat on those summer evenings, as you called out to the passing ice apple vendor and peeled the juicy delicate fruits on which we pounced and suckled like piglets, could use a coat of paint.

There is still that pomegranate tree with its gnarly branches, guava with its mottled leaves, and bushes of plantains with their brown peeling skin in your garden. But the snap beans, brinjals, and your little herb patch are lost to time and neglect.

This is one of those rare times I am visiting you without Ma. You don’t yet know I am standing in front of your verandah that has a criss-cross wooden grill. There is a muffled sound of television coming out of your tenant’s door. I slide my hand inside the grill door, unchain it, walk on the red oxide floor to the front door, and ring the bell.

You take your time. Your tenant peeps out from the adjacent door, grins, walks up, and pounds on your door. I hear a shuffle roll closer and a creak swinging the door open. You stand there, taking a moment to register my face before your half-teethed mouth opens wide in joy, and your 4-stone nose ring shimmers in dim light. I hug your fragile form and plant a kiss on your silver hair.

You sprint with a burst of energy that worries me; it is as if my touch has fuelled you with vibrant youthfulness. You scold me for not visiting you often, urge me to sit on the cane chair, and scoop me a bowl of boiled salted peanuts from your copper pan. I peel the shells and munch on the mushy nuts as you peel my years and take me back to my childhood.

 You let us play hide and seek in the laundry closet under the staircase and scribble with the stencils from Grandpa’s office supplies that lay in the attic. Never once did you show the scars of being a young widow with children to bring up, or the strain of tending to your summer visiting grandchildren. All I remember of my visits with Ma are those delicious meals you cooked, which always had something from your garden, and the raucous laughter you let out as we children begged you to continue telling us ghost stories, lying on the living room floor on makeshift beds and gazing at the stars through the skylight tiles. At times you told stories of Grandpa’s adventures, how he built this house for you and how this house stood strong by you after he had passed. I thought you were the bravest person on earth then. I still think you are.

You don’t talk much about how your children have grown busy in their own lives and why they don’t visit you often. Instead, you talk about the times when those black and white framed pictures hung in a line on the wall were taken, how a few faces from them have faded from the face of this earth and how your time too will come one day. I feel like clasping your hands and telling you not yet, but pick up a broom and clear the cobwebs dangling from the ceiling.

I want to ask “Why don’t you get someone to help you?” But I already know the answer. The last one pushed you back on your bed and stole petty cash from your trunk. I want to ask “Why don’t you stay with one of your children?” but I’m scared of the answer you might give.

You protest as I change your sheets, arrange your wardrobe and stock your supplies. You mutter you are not an invalid. But I see the floor is not as clean as it used to be and the dishes don’t sparkle as much. I look for ways to set things up without offending you. I am filled with equal measures of admiration and anger at your unbending will.

I need to be back home before your great-grandson returns from school. Maybe I should visit you more often, with him. He remembers you giving him a bouncing ball and a dinosaur the last time we gave a surprise visit years ago. You always have something to offer to anyone who visits you, even though you know those visits are rare.

I retie the mosquito net that is sagging on your bed and smoothen its wrinkles at the base. I wish I could smoothen the wrinkles on your face, sit close to the stove as you cook lentils and sprinkle a handful of herbs in it, and set the pendulum of the grandfather clock to swing. But I have to get back home.

You have already put together a gift hamper in an old shopping bag to send me home with. A boxful of boiled salted peanuts, a shiny silk blouse material, and a hand trowel; the trowel which you allowed me to work with my tiny hands in your precious herb garden and showed me how to wipe clean afterwards with coconut oil.

You wicked woman, you knew this would kill me with guilt, but still chose to give this! Maybe you know in your heart that your grandchildren must carry a piece of you within them. Not just the shape of your nose, the skin tone, or the thick mane, but a part of your beating heart.

I hug you, fight my tears, and ask you not to tire yourself by coming out to the gate to wave goodbye. You don’t ask when will I visit again. I step out of the verandah, wave goodbye, appeal to the peeping tenant to keep an eye on you and walk through the garden on my way out.

Tears roll down my cheeks as I pass through the gate. I must bring your great-grandson on my next visit, maybe with a handful of homegrown herbs.

November 21, 2022 10:44

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37 comments

Cindy Strube
18:35 Nov 22, 2022

Suma- As usual with your stories, descriptions are so clear and vivid that I can see it. There’s a lot here to remind us that people, no matter where we are, have more similarities than differences. Thank you for underlining this with such a tenderly drawn picture. This feels very personal - I see that it’s creative NF. It makes me think of my own wonderful grandma, who was a self-sufficient woman for as long as she could be. She finished her days just four years ago, almost 101. She (and my other grandma) gave me many gifts, tangible and i...

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Suma Jayachandar
06:45 Nov 23, 2022

Cindy!! Thank you so much for reading and giving heartfelt feedback. Yes, I would like to believe it is empathy - that knows similarities and respects the differences - which makes the world go round. This is mostly personal, with a few fictional elements added of course. Respect to your grandma who seems to have lived a good life.🧡

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Cindy Strube
19:12 Dec 02, 2022

So pleased that this shortlisted! I am one reader who very much appreciates your storytelling style. Congratulations!

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Suma Jayachandar
02:42 Dec 03, 2022

Thank you so much for all the love and support, Cindy. You know I value it a lot!

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Michał Przywara
21:41 Nov 21, 2022

A touching story. I see what you mean by us having similar ideas this week :) It's an idea worth exploring. I think this one really drives home the idea of what goes unsaid. Like right at the end, what does it for me is "You don’t ask when will I visit again." There’s too much uncertainty, right? And not enough time, never enough time. "But the snap beans, brinjals, and your little herb patch are lost to time and neglect." This struck me. The passage is about what was, what remains, and what has changed. But this is a personal thing, not...

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Suma Jayachandar
13:36 Nov 22, 2022

Thank you so much for your valuable feedback, as always , Michal. Yeah, there are so many things that go unsaid in life, either due to lack of courage or just plain life being...life. I'm happy that you picked up on that subtle theme :-)

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Michał Przywara
21:48 Dec 02, 2022

Other times, things do go said, like: congratulations on the shortlist!

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Suma Jayachandar
02:43 Dec 03, 2022

Aw Thank you so much Michal. It was a pleasant surprise considering I almost didn't sub...

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Roger Scypion
04:57 Feb 22, 2023

A very touching and engaging story with vivid descriptions. Your words took me back to a wonderful time with my grandparents and all you felt revisited me as I read. Thank you for such a moving story.

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Suma Jayachandar
08:48 Feb 22, 2023

Thank you Roger, for taking time to read and leave such a heartfelt comment.

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Renaldo Pillay
18:33 Dec 16, 2022

Hi Suma, what a wonderful read, I felt apart of this story and all I could think about was my naani, a person never left her home without anything or a meal, a beautiful soul indeed. Thanks for bringing back those fond memories. Amazing story.

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Suma Jayachandar
08:22 Dec 17, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words, Renaldo. I am humbled that this story struck a chord with you.

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Story Time
17:27 Dec 07, 2022

I love the urgency of the story. The words feel so alive as they're rushing at the reader. If you ever write a book, please let me know. I'm a big fan.

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Suma Jayachandar
17:35 Dec 07, 2022

OMG, this comment from THE Kevin Broccoli just made me fly close to the full moon after a demanding day of trekking. Truly humbled. I'm a big fan and have learnt so much from you.

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Amanda Lieser
16:27 Dec 06, 2022

Hi Suma! Congratulations on the shortlist! This story made me want to go and hug my grandmother tightly. I loved how you chose the POV and wove in such incredible imagery. I loved how this piece was the MC taking us on this journey. Nice job!

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Suma Jayachandar
16:38 Dec 06, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words, Amanda. I feel humbled that it made you appreciate your grandma even more. Thanks again!

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Philip Ebuluofor
06:17 Dec 05, 2022

Children, grandchildren and grandparents. The same everywhere. The same demands and the same thoughts and protest. Congrats Suma. Fine work.

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Suma Jayachandar
07:28 Dec 05, 2022

I guess they are. Thank you so much, Philip!

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Wally Schmidt
20:39 Dec 04, 2022

I can feel this woman's heart pounding out of her chest with the love she has for her grandmother. This is a story that I have shared personally, the pride for who the grandmother is and the sadness that she will not let others take care of her, as she has done for so many. Your prose is a joy to read.

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Suma Jayachandar
02:41 Dec 05, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words. This is loosely based on my grandma. I'm honoured to hear that it struck a chord with you.

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Rama Shaar
06:32 Dec 04, 2022

Great writing as usual, Suma! Congratulations:-)

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Suma Jayachandar
02:38 Dec 05, 2022

Thank you so much😊

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Suma Jayachandar
14:12 Dec 03, 2022

This ⭐ is for you avva, wherever you are❤️( you know I carry you in my heart)

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Edward Latham
12:50 Dec 03, 2022

You have a beautiful way of tying in the senses, the vivid smells and colours, with the emotions of the story. I really liked the description of the garden with its pomegranate tree and the guava, and how the grandma sprinted worrying fast. Congrats on the shortlist!

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Suma Jayachandar
14:13 Dec 03, 2022

Thank you so much for your kind words! Much appreciated.

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16:02 Dec 02, 2022

CONGRATS ON THE SHORTLIST :) Well deserved. Love your lyrical style!

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Suma Jayachandar
16:20 Dec 02, 2022

Thank you so much:-)

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06:59 Nov 30, 2022

4-stone nose ring? Wow, that thing weighs around 25 kilograms? She must have a heck of a strong nose to wear that! But seriously, this was a lovely little vignette. Again, after reading maybe 10 or more stories in this genre, I'm struck by the common theme of a whole story being basically just one interaction (she goes to see her Grandma, then leaves. Not much action, intrigue, developments, conflict...) I'm going to say, though, that that bothered me very little due to your compelling storytelling. You really have a knack for adding ...

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Suma Jayachandar
07:23 Nov 30, 2022

Haha, I like your sense of humour. In 'desi' world , any 'stone' related to a piece of jewelry is just a gem and not a measure of weight (you probably know that already). I am guilty as charged about the length and scope of the story though, and maybe I will try and write with more pre-planned plot points than going with the flow technique I tend to follow. I am still learning something new with every story I read and write. I truly appreciate you taking time to read and comment.

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Aeris Walker
13:39 Nov 29, 2022

Such a sweet and sad story—that kind that immediately makes you want to pick up the phone and call a loved one. Really liked these lines here: “At times you told stories of Grandpa’s adventures, how he built this house for you and how this house stood strong by you after he had passed. I thought you were the bravest person on earth then. I still think you are.“ Lovely writing as usual, Suma :)

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Suma Jayachandar
15:29 Nov 29, 2022

Thank you, Aeris! I greatly value your appreciation and support. You know it :-)

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Rebecca Miles
06:59 Nov 27, 2022

There is so much love and longing in this. The cross generational pull is a strong current: the granddaughter's desire to strengthen her bond while she still can, and that of her son's. I particularly liked the sense of giving and receiving. The grandmother gives so much but the story ends beautifully with the idea there should be reciprocation and a return. The most meaningful gift is always time, isn't it.

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Suma Jayachandar
10:04 Nov 27, 2022

Thank you for the read and comment, Rebecca. Yes you are right. The present moment is all we have. And the best gifts are memories made from the same.

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Rebecca Miles
17:13 Dec 02, 2022

Yeah on the shortlist Suma🤗

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Suma Jayachandar
02:30 Dec 03, 2022

Yeah! Thanks Rebecca 😊

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Lindsay Flo
17:51 Nov 23, 2022

So sorrowfully beautiful. Isn't that how it often how the end of life years go, whether intended or not? It makes me think of one of my grandmothers, who was soooo pissed at us all when she needed help, when she couldn't be on her own. And the little things the narrator remembers remind me of the little things I remember of my other grandmother: Tasty Kakes for snacks, rainbow sprinkles for ice cream, watching The Golden Girls, the pack of Benson and Hedges she always kept near. Wonderful, emotional story.

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Suma Jayachandar
13:39 Nov 24, 2022

Thank you so much for reading and commenting, Lindsay. I admire your work a lot. So, this feedback really made my day!

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